Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (June 27) – Ask anyone who's ever travelled overseas and they will tell you that Fiji’s reputation precedes it.

Upon introduction to total strangers, they will ask what the political situation is like here, whether another coup is brewing and what the national sevens team is up to.

Since 1987, Fiji has had a long hard struggle regaining the respect of the international community of nations — many of whom are influential in terms of the aid that helps prop up our economy and development.

We clawed our way back into the Commonwealth and all the comraderie that entails.

We struggled to regain the aid that we so desperately needed for growth.

We fought to convince our educated and skilled people that they should stay here to develop this country.

In 2000, we received widespread condemnation for failing to uphold a government elected so convincingly by the majority of people here.

We were cut off by the international community, and we saw the devastation that a trade ban can have.

Five years down the line, our reputation is again on the agenda, with promises of a downward revision because of controversy caused by a Bill that seeks to allow for amnesty over "politically motivated" offences.

The fact that the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions — a powerful body with over 200 million members — has its eye on us is no laughing matter.

It sees the Unity Bill as promoting the illegal overthrow of elected governments for political expediency.

Any local that goes overseas will have to justify why we are promoting amnesty for such crimes — five years after the fact.

Faced with such a prospect, most locals would have to truthfully say that they do not know why the Bill has come out now, nor which people qualify for such amnesty.

Some international opinion is that Fiji is trying to legalise acts of treason and terrorism when the whole world is attempting to eradicate it.

This Bill has placed all citizens in the precarious position of having to justify a Bill that not all may agree with.

We are facing the prospect of having our reputation as an unstable place precede us.

Perhaps the Prime Minister should give us his set of answers to direct questions such as that involving legalisation of terror.

It would certainly make for interesting reading for any citizen.

June 27, 2005

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